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Tumble Home: A Novella and Short Stories





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About the book:

In keeping with its minimalist content, Amy Hempel's latest collection of seven stories and a novella weighs in at a slim 155 pages; what the book lacks in heft, however, it more than makes up for in mood. Hempel, the author of two other short-story collections, is a master of witty understatement. In "The Children's Party," the narrator gives some advice to a father whose children feel that getting a new dog after the old one was killed would be disloyal: "'Tell them this: The need for the new love is faithfulness to the old,'" to which the father replies, "'That's what I used to tell myself when I cheated on my ex-wife.'" In Hempel's stories, nothing much happens, yet everything changes.

The collection's title is taken from the novella, in which a woman committed to a psychiatric institution writes a letter to a famous painter she has only met once. The letter is written over the course of several days, and as the writer chronicles her life among the other patients, she reveals her wounded psyche and her struggle to find home, "the place where nothing can touch you." In one way or another, all of Hempel's characters are looking for home, but there is nothing epic in their voyages of discovery; rather, it is in the little things--the touch of an unshaven cheek, a school of bluefish leaping in the surf, a baby's grave--that Hempel captures a whole world of feeling.

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